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How do I get into Orthodontics?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 05 December 2016
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Orthodontics is a demanding field that requires many years of study. People who are orthodontists specialize in various corrective measures to the teeth and jaws. This includes things like putting on braces to treat crooked teeth or those that stick out, but it can also mean widening palates or using special equipment and techniques to treat palate and jaw defects.

In most countries, people must complete a bachelor’s degree prior to attending dental school, where they will not yet become specialists in orthodontics, but will instead become dentists. Those in high school considering this field may wonder what areas they should study prior to college. It can help to work hard on math and science and plan to major in a field in college that focuses in these areas. Some people study pre-med or nursing for their bachelor’s degree, but this isn’t always necessary. Others have degrees in the sciences or take liberal arts degrees with a strong showing in various sciences. Classes or extracurricular activities that stress interaction with people can be valuable areas to excel in too.

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Once a person has finished a bachelor’s degree, they can apply for dental school, and length of time school takes may depend on country requirements. In the UK, for instance, dental school takes four to five years. In the US some programs in dental school take three years and others take four. Once this training is completed, many countries have licensing exams people must take before proceeding to a school that specializes in teaching orthodontics.

Those practicing orthodontics could be considered dentist specialists. They’ll need an additional two to three years of specialty training and practice prior to receiving certification. Certification is given by completing training with an accredited or certified school, and by taking exams in orthodontics. Altogether, training to be an orthodontist from early college onward may take about 10-15 years depending upon the country where certification is pursued. Some people may study further and get doctoral degrees in this field, which will lengthen time spent studying.

Along the way, and during study, people specializing should have lots of opportunities to work with people and determine that this is the career they truly want. Good orthodontists tend to build their practice by being good at their jobs and skilled with people. Special attention needs to be paid to how to interact successfully with kids and teens, since these often make up a majority of the orthodontist’s patients.

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stl156
Post 5

Out of curiosity, is it possible to go on past your bachelor's to dental school even if you didn't major in something health related? How are dental school applicants judged? Is it based on undergraduate work, or are there also tests you have to take that help determine whether you would be a good fit?

When someone decides to become an orthodontist, what is the extra cost for the schooling? How much more should that person expect to make per year compared to a normal dentist? I know most orthodontict prodceedures are much more expensive than regular things.

matthewc23
Post 4

@cardsfan27 - At one point I was interested in getting a dental degree, but eventually decided I wouldn't have liked it. It's probably for the best, since I'm not really that good around kids.

When I was looking at classes, most of them were about facial anatomy. Actually, a lot of the courses only meet for a couple of months, and it can get to be a pretty hectic schedule. I think most dental programs also give students an introduction to orthodontics.

I assume going on to get a real orthodontics degree would mean learning more about correcting different alignment problems in the mouth. Keep in mind, too, that dentists spend a lot of their college time getting hands on training working with patients. That would probably be at least a whole year for an orthodontist's degree.

cardsfan27
Post 3

@ceilingcat - I agree. I have known a couple of people who were taking pre-med classes to go to medical or dental school. They were all very motivated to get their degrees, and they all enjoyed taking the classes.

Once someone graduates from dental school and moves on to orthodontics, what types of classes do they take? I always wondered how much there was to study about the mouth and teeth.

ceilingcat
Post 2

@JaneAir - I actually have known a few people who had braces as adults. They said they always felt awkward going to the orthodontist because the other patients were all kids. But they were always wowed by their orthodontists great bedside manners, so I guess it worked out in their favor.

I think the reason why a lot of orthodontists I've run across are good at their jobs is that you have to really want to be an orthodontist to do it. I can't imagine anyone going through all those years of schooling if they didn't feel passionate about their field.

JaneAir
Post 1

Wow! I had no idea it took so long to become an orthodontist! I always kind of thought an orthodontist and a dentist were pretty much the same thing. I have a whole new level of respect for my childhood orthodontist now.

I also have to say that the article was right on that orthodontists have to good with kids. I remember every time I visited my orthodontist the majority of the other patients were also children and teenagers. I think a job as an orthodontist would probably be a bad fit for someone who didn't like kids.

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